Neil Francis Lennon

In some previous pieces I have reflected on past Celtic players, most of which have had happy memories for both player and fans alike, when I started to do this one, i was working along the same theme, but it changed to what I believe to be very sad reflection on bigotry and hatred, that Neil the player and the person, and who just wanted to live his childhood dream of playing for Celtic, instead was often forced to confront injury bigotry, and sectarian abuse.

Neil’s first visit to a Glasgow football club, strangely enough, was not to Celtic, but to their then arch rivals Rangers* (*now deceased) as he was invited at age 13 by manager Jock Wallace to Ibrox for training and coaching and to meet Jimmy Nicholl an Irish Internationalist.

Can you imagine if Rangers* had no anti-catholic signing policy, what might have been ? and Neil Lennon had ended up playing out of Ibrox. Do you think the personal assaults on him, or the threats, the bombs and bullets would ‘ever’ have happened (naw me neither).

Before he joined Leicester City, while with Crewe, Neil suffered a horrific spinal injury which required a back operation and forced him to wear a back brace and kept him out of football for 15 months. Neil had a piece of bone inserted at the base of his spine held in place with a piece of wire which is tied in a butterfly knot.

Martin O’Neill went to extraordinary lengths to sign Neil for Leicester, while Neil was at Crewe, and when Martin became manager of Celtic, he showed the same enthusiasm and tried several times to buy Neil from his old club Leicester. Martin knew he was a formidable player and told Celtic “Buy me Neil Lennon and I can assure you we won’t be getting turned over easily”.

Martin was to realise, very quickly, exactly what he needed to do, if he was to get the better of the huge, (now known to have been illegal) spending power of Rangers*.

In December 2000 Martin finally got his man and Neil traveled to Glasgow following his transfer fee of £5.7 million (not bad business for Leicester who had acquired Neil for £750 thousand pounds).

Neil was a talented gritty midfielder, who played in a more defensive holding role, he was a talent that could be appreciated by Celtic fans who knew he was key in the Celtic side, every great side needs a player like Neil to do the hard work that allows space for the others to take the glory. Neil never complained about his midfield role, in fact he excelled in it, and just got on with the job and let others take the plaudits.

I suppose the big question of his move at the time was, could he play in the same midfield as Paul Lambert as both their styles seemed similar, but it worked out well, which allowed both to either play or have their day, this also allowed the likes of Stilian Petrov, Lubo Moravcik and Alan Thompson to express their own creative talents.

Lurgan born Neil had been a lifelong Celtic fan and he made absolutely no attempt to hide his joy from the Scottish media at joining the hoops, unfortunately for Neil this is where the hatred began.

Firstly the reaction of the Dundee fans, who actually booed Neil throughout the warm up, Neil had not even, as yet, kicked a ball for Celtic in earnest, yet here was the start of a lifelong hatred of Neil, and sadly, this routine was to be endured by him in grounds throughout Scotland during his period at Celtic.

No one in Celtic’s history has ever been victimised more than Neil Lennon by other supporters, racists and bigots.

In his first match for Northern Ireland in 2001 after moving to Celtic, Neil has his every touch booed by fans at Windsor Park, it was absolutely shameful behaviour from his countrymen, Neil was boo-ed for no other reason than, simply because, he played for Celtic. Neil was taken off at half-time by manager Sammy McIlroy.

In my opinion McIllroy handled that situation badly.

Before Northern Ireland’s home game against Cyprus in 2002, Neil and his family’s lives are threatened by someone claiming to be a member of the Loyalist Volunteer Force, Neil was due to captain his country for the first time. Neil is then forced to pull out of the game after 40 caps for his country.

Neil is sent off in 2003 in a game against Rangers* in the League Cup Final at Hampden.

Neil is subjected to sectarian abuse in 2003 from 2 men after they spot him in his car, They spat on his car and rocked it. When Neil got out to appeal for calm, he was assaulted by both men.

A Rangers* fan tries to force Neil off the road in 2004 on the M8, while making gestures and threatening him.

In November 2004, Neil is subjected to a full 90 minutes of horrible sectarian and racist abuse by Rangers* fans, leading to Martin O’Neil at the end of the game, defiantly taking Neil back on to the pitch with his arm around Neil, to show his backing and support for his player. Martin O’Neill thoroughly condemned the Rangers* fans behavior three days later in Barcelona, Rangers* would later be sanctioned by EUFA for bigotry.

Neil is again sent off in 2005 for confronting referee Stuart Dougal at the end of a Rangers* game at Ibrox.

In his autobiography, Man and Bhoy, in 2007 Neil reveals his battles with depression.

A Rangers* fan is jailed in 2013 for posting the message: “Get mair bullets and bombs sent to Neil Lennon boys.

February 2014: Neil is forced to leave the League Cup semi-final between Aberdeen and St Johnstone early when Aberdeen thugs hurl missiles and abuse at him.

There is no other reason that Neil suffered these and many many more acts of racist and sectarian abuse, except that simply, he was born a Roman Catholic.

I have not listed all of the shameful attacks on Neil, just a sample of the abuse that this brave man has had to face while trying to enjoy what he loved doing, playing football for a club he has loved all his life.

No one should have been subjected to horrendous actions such as these while trying to do their job, or while trying to do something they love. In many countries it just would not be tolerated and would have been stamped out at the very first instance, we however still live in a very backward country where sectarianism and bigotry has always been rife, and disgracefully the problem is never confronted by the people who are actually paid large salaries from the public purse to do so.

Neil’s spell as Celtic Interim Manager was not a simple task either when he took over from Tony Mowbray in 2010, he was a rookie manager and again, was never going to be dealt any fair hand by the Scottish media, but he did eventually get Celtic at some stage playing great football, yes we also had some horror moments, losing to Kilmarnock in the league cup final and then to Hearts in the Scottish cup Semi final, to be fair though players must share the blame in some respects. If I’m being honest there were also some horror European moments (Ajax away) then some sublime European moments Barcelona home and away (bearing in mind Barcelona were considered at this time to be the top team on the planet).

Throughout all of his time with Celtic Neil endured Bullets, death threats, bombs and assaults. The one eyed media always ready to vent on Neil, because of his crime of being honest, and speaking out when someone had to, as severely criticised referees.

All in all at the end of his first managerial stint few could argue that the football became entertaining, along the way he learned, he signed a few good players such as VVD Hooper Samaras, Izaguirre, Ledley, Lustig, Wanyama, he wanted to bring back The Thunder’ to Celtic, I believe to an extent he managed to do that, and did so with a limited budget. Let’s never forget most of his achievements were done whilst being attacked, given death threats, and been sent bombs or bullets or hanging effigys . Simply because he was a catholic from Northern Ireland playing for Celtic or working for Celtic Football Club. Neil stood up to it all.

Many Celtic supporters, may have rather had a different manager take over after Brendan Rodgers did his moonlight flit to Leicester, rather than Neil.

My personal opinion is Neil came in when a lot of others may have been too afraid to step in for fear of losing the treble treble, or the nine, after Brendan’s long run of winning, then some may not have wanted to be curtailed by our [cough] Director of football [cough] yes you Pedro, however Neil showed character in stepping in, he’s never been one to show fear of taking any task head on.

Neil is, above all else in his life, a very courageous person.

He knows what it is to win, and have a desire to win, and when he doesn’t win he hurts, like a fan hurts, and I for one am glad we have someone who loves the club as much as we do, and is not afraid, as we go for the unprecedented Ten

We Are all Neil Lennon. YNWA

Some Quotes:

If you gave me £12m I couldn’t guarantee finding someone with a winning mentality like Neil Lennon’s. – Gordon Strachan in 2012

Political, cultural and civic Scotland has yet to explain its failure to protect Neil Lennon. – Journalist Kevin McKenna

I was a footballer, treated as a public hate figure, merely because I was a Catholic who wore the green and white hoops of Celtic. – Neil Lennon

John Hartson gave the ball away against Liverpool a couple of times, So I shouted “keep a hold of the ball”. John turned around and said to me “Shut up or I’ll rip your head off !!”. A couple of minutes later I passed the ball to John he shrugged off Sammy Hyppia, played a one two with Henrik and crashed a shot into the top corner of the net. That goal was the single best moment for me in the whole Seville year, I loved seeing big John turn to our fans smiling and knowing that Liverpool were not coming back from that defeat. – Neil Lennon

The only rational thing Steven Gerrard has said this week is that they played Celtic the best team in the country on Sunday. – Neil Lennon

He was a player who sometimes flew under the radar. He worked hard for everybody, and it was essential to have someone like that on the team. – Lubo Moravcik

Lastly from the brain of britain himself: Yesterday’s result was a gold star in Neil’s feather. – Alex Rae (who else)

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BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

My apologies for not crediting the author.

Above article is by ASWGL,with grateful thanks for an excellent piece of work.

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

First race tomorrow is 1210,folks. So anyone who wants to join the GENEROUS BENEFACTOR SC NAPS COMPETITION,you have to make your selection before that time.

***

RAYMAC,I’ve made a note of your selection and will post it for you. Hope you have a smashing time on The West Coast. Good weekend to get out of dodge!!!

***

NEW NAPS COMPETITION

Starts on July 4,with a slightly different format and some VERY GENEROUS PRIZE MONEY,courtesy of…a generous benefactor!!!

Selections from UK and Ireland meetings ONLY on the applicable Saturday. A non-runner can be replaced with a selection on the Sunday.

ALL selections must be entered before the first race of the day.

Points will be decided as before. An imaginary £1 stake,and winnings credited to your running total.

Competition will run for forty weeks-which means,I think that it ends on April 10-Grand National Day.

After 20 weeks,the entrants will split into two groups,Premier League and Championship,based on standings at that stage.

Prizes are as follows.

Premier League Winner-£100
Runner up-£50

Championship Winner-£30
Runner up-£10

***

Additionally,there will be separate competitions for The Cheltenham Festival and for The Grand National Meeting,each with a first prize of £30.

And the Brucie Bonus of an extra £50 will be available for the spawny git who manages the treble!

So that’s £300 to play for next season,which is more than the SFA have managed to get in sponsorship for the Scottish Cup. Might be worth investing in Timeform,I reckon…

PS-there will also be a Royal Ascot competition. Prizes as follows…

1st…..£30free bet
2nd…£15 free bet
3rd……£5 free bet

McCaff

Morning Bobby, I hope you’re good this morning!
Apologies ASWGL, great article which I commended Mahe for.
Mahe, ya sleekit so and so, you never denied it wisnae you!!!
Night all!

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

And I’ll bet it was always Neil’s ambition to have a gold star in his feather.

Honestly,when brains were being handed out Alex Rae was still at the back of the good looks queue.

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

McCAFF

Aye,not too bad. Been better though. Thanks for the track on the last thread.

I’m no angel though. Ask anyone!

Garry

Good morning troops. Great write up on our manager BMCUW. My admiration for Neil holds no bounds as player, manager and thoroughly decent human being. As you suggested M, you have only scratched the surface regarding the Anti Irish Racism that the man and his family have had to endure since the first year of the 21st century. Can you imagine if Neil was a black man and suffered similar racist abuse? Would the press in this backward country of our birth, shrug it off and almost excuse it, with utterances like I have read and heard, that he brings it on himself? Would our political leaders and Scottish Government officials turn a blind eye to such blatant racism? Would an Edinburgh jury and judge deliver a not guilty verdict towards a vicious thug for assaulting someone, live on television and broadcast across the globe?
These questions are rhetorical. We know it would not be tolerated. For me, Neil Lennon is a Celtic legend and hero, with baws bigger than King Kong. He is one of the bravest men in our country and we are very lucky to have him managing our club. It will be entirely fitting when come next May, he achieves the records of 10 in a row, and 5 trebles in a row. No one will deserve that award more than Neil Francis Lennon.
In the words that the great Bill Shankly offered to our greatest ever manager in Lisbon ’67, we will say to our manager.
“Neil you are now Immortal!”
God bless the Lurgan Lion.

Garry

Thank you ASWGL, I have just read that you are the author of that excellent article on Neil. Would love the man himself to read it.

Puff puff

Pure brilliant article ASWGL .. I was never so depressed as a Celtic fan as the night he was rehired as the new Celtic manager ..the reactions of the support really upset me that night and to this day … I could go on but what’s the point . I love NFL always will , and to any one that cals him Lennon well you have been listening to the huns in print and on radio way to long ….

Garry

Mahe
If you are still around?
It is being reported in the Scottish media this morning, that Celtic are targeting Mark McKenzie of Philadelphia Union. He is a 21 year old left sided centre half from The Bronx NYC. You know anything about him?

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

GARRY

If Celtic win ten in a row,the manager and the players will be,as you say,immortal in our eyes. Of course they won’t be held in higher esteem than Jock and the Lisbon Lions-but nor would they wish to be.

Each milestone is an achievement in itself. And there are some who contributed to our latest ongoing one that I’d much prefer still to be contributing! But they have made their decisions,they won’t be immortalised. They might flash the cash,but they can’t show their medals. Well,not as many as they would have won,in a Jim Bowen styleeeee!

Which is why I wonder about the Fraser Forster situation. He knows the score,and I don’t think he’s short of a quid either. He didn’t come from the slums like Gascoigne,so he’s used to a few bob and will have it well invested.

Stay with Southampton for the next two years twiddling your knitting for £8m or…

Join us for £3m less. And the glory!

I doubt his hesitancy is financial. I reckon he thinks that he can get his first team place back. And he knows that Jordan Pickford is on a sticky wicket with England. And there’s a World Cup in two years.

That’s a big gamble,Fraser. And a lot of what ifs…

Garry

BMCUW
The ball is very much in Fraser’s court. As you say, he has a background of a Private school education with a father who is a Justice of the Peace. I don’t think the big yin lacks in upstairs grey matter. Hope he makes a career enhancing decision, and not a financial one.

Garry

BMCUW
Fraser also shares a birthday with my daughter, the feast day of Saint Patrick 17th March. Destined to be the goalie for the 10. I hope.

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

GARRY

Aye well. I share a birthday with St Patrick Charles!!!

Garry

BMCUW
Your dad couldnae have planned that better. Similar to me with my Patrice. ?????

Garry

BMCUW
I am proud to share my birthday with James Connolly. 100 years to the day older than me. ???

GER57

ASWGL,
Brilliant article. What a shameful timeline for civic Scotland. I don’t know if it’s anger at the attitude of the passive bigots, or the massive awe I feel for Neil’s strength of character which is the stronger emotion whilst reading.
Our wonderful football reporters have promoted an atmosphere of hate towards Neil for which they deserve a good boot in the knackers, starting with that two faced Speirs. Very respectable, but he says Neil brings it on himself. I’ll use that rationale when I meet him. We can deal with the morons like Rae and Boyd: it’s the sleekit bassas I cannot stand.

Garry

Ger57
Hi G, hope you are well doon the coast mate.
Glorious morning in Dalmuir.
I detest that most sleekit of characters, the public persona cheekie chappie McCoist. Lower than a snake’s belly that yin. Despicable creature.

Noel Skytrot

I wasn’t that happy when he returned as manager but i’ve eaten loads of humble pie since, he’s been outstanding. On the whole sectarianism/racism issues he’s endured in Scotland, there is no other place on this globe, and there’s plenty of crazy places on the planet were a football manager has had bullets and bombs, viable devices at that, sent too them. I’d imagine in years to come when our grandchildren read about all those occurrences they’ll ask WTF was going on in Scottish football. The press, the knuckle draggers and every single person who made nasty comments and fuelled that disgusting set of events ought to hang their heads in shame.

When we win 10 in a row, it’ll be the biggest get it round ye’s from Lennon. It’ll dement them that the person they despise so much will now have grasped the holy grail.

Twisty

ASWGL
Great piece on Neil.

I genuinely think the Celtic support will be head over heels with joy , more so for for Neil Lennon than for themselves, should he deliver.
Something I suppose we don’t think about too much, or certainly often enough, is how he must be feeling moving into this coming season under more stress and pressure than one could imagine.

The man who delivered the ten, or the man in charge when the ten was stopped?

Yes I know he’s well paid , and has the privilege of managing the hoops, but hell, how tough is this gonna be? It’s not just the opposing teams he needs to concern himself over. 3/4 of the country ( including match officials and other managers) have allegiance elsewhere in varying degrees.

He needs us to deliver our backing this year more than ever. We need him more than ever to get the title.

This’ll seem a stupid comment, but if he gives us the 10, I hope he calls it a day. He’ll deserve to go and chill with his family , and glory in the immortality he will have earned in respect of his place in Celtic’s history books.

What’s more, he’d be the person whose name will stick in the craw of the aforementioned 75% more than any other name could. That will make it additionally sweet.

big packy

MORNING ALL and JIM, ASWGL, brilliant article, neil francis lennon will go down in history as one of the great celtic managers, he deserves a medal for what he had had to put up, with, good god almighty death threats just because he is a catholic from the north of ireland, and plays for celtic,,but sadly this is bonny scotland, unfortunately.,H.H.

Celtic Champs Elect

Great piece on NFL as one Of the few on here who shouted from the rooftops for NFL to be our manager I can safely say We have been vindicated and more GBNFL a Leader a Winner and Celtic thru and thru

AS67

Morning all

Brilliant article ASWGL. I think the highlighted sentence emphasising the courage of the great man sums it up for me.

Yes he’s done a fantastic job, even more so than the masses expected. However, given his personal roller coaster of abuse during all spells at the club to come back and do it again really does cement how courageous he is. And that’s not even taking depression into account.

We’ve all had jobs im sure where there’s a deadline that’s hard to meet or workload piling the pressure on. I couldnt image having that feeling day and night the full length of the contract, coupled with the fear of being attacked every time you step out to buy a pint of milk.

Hes made of the real stuff. A proper warrior.

HH

Nobody has had to put up with as much as Neil Lennon and his family, to wear our colours, and for that he deserves our eternal thanks.

Garry

Would be great if Neil Lennon could read the lead article on here today, and the follow up comments. Would raise his spirits in Loughborough for sure. Some lovely comments bhoys. ?

Garry

Bada
Sun is shining and very hot, but I am overcome with goosebumps watching that video ??

Ministers give approval for professional football return.
Competitive professional football matches will be permitted in Scotland behind closed doors from the 1 August after Ministers approved plans to ensure suitable public health and safety measures are in place, so long as Scotland continues to suppress the COVID-19 virus.
Professional football clubs will also be able to participate in appropriate closed-doors training matches with immediate effect.

Twisty

Bada
Thanks
I don’t bother with reading news on Celtic anymore. I just await your updates

Appreciated by the way !!

Not sure about the Eddy 7 thing,why are the Club selling new strips with 22? If they change it,folk will want a refund if they have bought one with 22 on it

Brian

The good old Scottish media have played the biggest part in the demonization of Neil, and should hang their heads in shame, I remember Tyncastle incident in particular, I was backshift and recorded game to watch after work, couldn’t believe Sky’s build up to game showed Lenny getting off team bus with superimposed red devils eye’s, even left same image in highlights of game, total hun scum.

Twisty

Brian
Absolutely.
There were comments on here recently questioning the BLM movement and how things were in Scotland.

That incident you refer to in your post, highlights where the problems lie here.

NLM should be the cry here.

jimthetim53

Afternoon all and Packy.
Terrific article ASWGL. A very good and accurate tribute to Neil.

Packy, re. Johnny Beattie, In the late eighties I worked in Ayr for a couple of weeks. I went to the Gaiety Theatre summer show starring Johnnie Beattie. It was at the time ‘Who Shot JR’? was all the rage. They did a sketch of Dallas with Johnny as JR and Dorothy Paul (I think) playing Sue Ellen. It was hilarious, especially Johnny’s American accent! Thoroughly enjoyed the show 🙂

I’m sure Lennon needs to get another goalkeeper,forget about Forster he sees the Situation at Southampton,so he is going to fight for his place and also get a England call up,I would say another winger and a Centre Half.

Twisty

Jim
I think I vaguely remember that!

My earliest memory of Glasgow theatres was seeing Dora Bryan in something. Geez must’ve been 50 odd years ago.

McCaff

JtT/Twisty….Werther’s Original anyone? 🙂 🙂 🙂

Garry

Timbhoy
What wing?
Who do you think we could get that would be better than Forrest or Elyounoussi, and at what price? Reckon you would need to spend £20 million. I have not written off getting Fraser Forster yet.

McCaff

Only joking, of course!!
I hope everyone is well this afternoon!

Garry

McCaff
Were you not in Johnny Beattie’s year at Saint Gerard’s? ???

McCaff

…..or Frimpong or Mikey!

McCaff

Ah cannnae remember son…whit year wis it? 🙂 🙂 🙂

Garry

McCaff
Or was it Billy Connolly’s year at Saint Gerard’s? ??

McCaff

For any other old-timers out there…this Celtic man was my Maths teacher in 2nd or 3rd year at St Gerard’s. CCB might be the only guy on here who can remember him playing!
http://celticunderground.net/the-bhoy-in-the-picture-matt-lynch/

McCaff

Garry, a wee mention for one of your own in the article, too!!

Garry

McCaff
Nice one. Was Matt Lynch any relation to another Govan bhoy and Saint Gerard’s FP Andy Lynch?

McCaff

Not to my knowledge, Garry. The Celtic Wiki has a good Matt Lynch entry in which it explains Lynch was dropped for the Empire Exhibition Cup Final in favour of a certain Delaney who was fit again after injury!!
http://m.thecelticwiki.com/page/Lynch%2C+Matt

Fairhill bhoy

McCaff-hi mate.Happy lurking recently until you said Fruits Of Passion where a Glasgow band?
Sharon Dunleavy is a good Hamilton gal ?

jimthetim53

McCaff, hope your well 🙂
That was an interesting read about Matt Lynch, cheers.

McCaff

FB, Hamilton – the small suburb of Glasgow you mean? 😉 🙂 🙂

McCaff

Here you go FB, a wee resume of Fruits of Passion…
https://intothepopvoid.com/2016/08/09/fruits-of-passion-kiss-me-now/

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